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How To Become A Music Teacher In 5 Easy Steps

In this article we show you how to become a guitar teacher in your local area. We don't cover teaching music lessons online (Skype lessons etc.). 

Do you play an instrument to a decent enough level? Well, you could be making money as a private music teacher.

Say whaaaat?!!!

You probably thought you needed a degree in music or some teaching qualification or other. 

Wrong.

You don’t need to be qualified or an accomplished musician to teach.

You only need two things:

- the ability to play your instrument to an good enough level.
- have a passion to spread the knowledge and teach others the delights of learning a musical instrument.

The second one is the most important.

I’ve been teaching private and peripatetic instrumental lessons for several years and have discovered a few ways to ensure successful practice. I’m going to give you some pointers around how.

Let’s dive in...

music studio

1) Find Students

The easiest way to find students is to approach a local music school or music studio.

Some starter-teachers don't like the risk associated with starting a new business somewhere, where rent needs to be paid on a room and students need to be established in order to make it worth their while.

But, without risk, drive is difficult to achieve, and you are 10 X more likely to achieve in an established environment than you are from your home!

Take the risk, approach a music school or a music studio local to you and let them know of your intentions to teach for them.

I can guarantee you will be surprised by their keenness to take you on. And if they're not, try another one. They will be pleased.

Music schools and studios often have time where they are not yet booked out, just waiting for you to start up your business. Also, they'll most likely help you out with advertising. Remember, it is their business, too!


The excitement that comes with this will give you the drive to advertise your services in local post offices and shops, online on sites like musicteachers.co.uk, rslawards.com, gumtree, and at music venues.

2) Structure Your Lesson

The key to a good lesson is good preparation. It is important to have a detailed plan for your students, to enable them to trust you and to - importantly - learn!

I have found that half hour lessons are the ideal length for most learners, particularly the younger ones. Some adults might like to have an hour, but this can be offered as 2 x 30 minute sessions conjoined.

So, how to structure it? 

Here's a first lesson with a student:

First Lesson Plan (30 min lesson):

  • 0 - 5 mins - Hello, welcome, intro to the guitar parts (strings, frets, etc.
  • 5 - 10 mins - Introduction to the strings. Play the top 3 strings one at a time and give them ‘names’ (e.g. Ethan, Ben, Grace…), several times in a row, teacher plays some music to complement each string in the background
  • 10 - 15 mins - Intro to first piece - a simple piece using just E strings and B strings, crotchets and minims. (See book ‘The Guitarists’ Way’) 
  • 15 - 20 mins - Game: Guitars down. Pick an animal for a crotchet and an animal for a minim. Go through the piece “as animals”, and the next piece.
  • 20 - 25 mins - Another game: Rhythmic recall: You play a rhythm on the E string, they either play or clap it back. This could develop into “don’t clap this one back” - if the rhythm you play is ‘ta ta titi ta’, they don’t play/clap that one back (because ta ta titi ta matches the rhythm of words “don’t play this one back”), otherwise they lose! Like ‘Simon Says’.
  • 25 - 30 mins - Check they remember each string’s name - they are likely to if they named them! Set HW to practise first couple of pieces, which are written in sheet music and just use open strings.

Once you've had your first lesson, here's a general lesson plan:

General Lesson Plan (30 min lesson):

  • 0 - 5 mins - Hello, catch up, warm up exercise (varies depending on level) 
  • 5 - 10 mins - Play through latest scale learned and try either: doing it forwards and backwards / adding another octave / transposing the scale / doing it faster 
  • 10 - 15 mins - Either improvising or sight reading (preferably relevant to the same scale as just played)
  • 15 - 25 mins - The piece they are currently learning - develop parts learned, progress, perform, play with backing track
  • 25 - 30 mins - Game of your choice (use your imagination!) 🙂 

3) Agree on a 3 month plan

calendar planner

The third step in our guide to how to become a music teacher is building a plan.

Put it this way. You want to avoid the 'one-off lessons' and agree to a period of time. It's not only better off from a financial POV, it also encourages your students to trust you and commit to your lessons plus demonstrates your trust and commitment to them.

A win-win.

You want to set up a 3 month (or even 6 or 12 month) plan. This plan can include payment dates and methods, targets to be reached and any additional information you would like to include.

These short term plans also allow for regular progress review, which is an essential part of teaching and learning.

Start by building out a basic curriculum for your student that covers the areas you're going to cover in the period of time you've agreed.

Of course, you can repurpose the Curriculum for your next students and slightly tweak it according to need.

4) How to keep your students on track

As well as the bi-annual or quarterly progress reviews mentioned above, student-led formative assessment is a good way of them keeping themselves on track.

I like to have colouring in progress sheets, if they are preparing for an exam, which they can get out at the start of the lesson, make sure that they are appropriately coloured in, then colour in some more at the end of the lesson (depending on where they made progress).

This also makes lesson planning much easier, as it is largeley student-led, yet still organised.

If they are not preparing for an exam, this method can still be used, but goals will have to be set together first.

Here's an example the colour progress sheet I use.

5) How to up your game as a teacher (CPD)

how to become a guitar teacher

My final pointer is perhaps the most important one: commit yourself to continual improvement or 'CPD' (Continual Professional Development).

You can get by as a music teacher without having any teaching or music qualifications but there are a lot of music teachers around, and if you want to maintain good business and a good reputation, you have to keep your edge.

Get qualified!

I'm not suggesting that you go out there and get a music degree before you start teaching music, but there are plenty of less demanding and less expensive courses out there which can qualify you to teach music.

Firstly, if you don't already have them, getting a grade 6-8 in the instrument you want to teach would ensure confidence in both yourself and your student (who may well want to take grades!). After you have done that, it is important to learn some skills as an educator.

You can take courses which can be completed in a year to qualify you as an educator. In the UK we you have City and Guilds' CET and DET, and more music-specific courses through music exam boards including Rockschool, Trinity and ABRSM.

These courses tend to cost up to £1000, with not a penny wasted for what they do for your confidence, skills and insight.

If you just don't have the funds at the moment to take on one of these courses, don't panic! You can learn a lot online about how others teach and about how pupils learn. 


Summary 

I hope that the 5 points above have helped to encourage and inspire you to begin your journey as a music teacher.

It is a demanding and rewarding profession, which well worth it.

Happy teaching, happy learning.

Featured image by Nathan Russell / CC BY 2.0

Roz is a music teacher and our go-to person for anything music theory! When she’s not teaching or writing for Zing, Roz writes and plays in alternative/ psyche /art rock band The Roz Bruce Infusion.

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